As you (hopefully) saw from social media on Monday, UKCISA kicked off the week with our first #WeAreInternational student forum in London. We had to pull this event together in a very short space of time, in order to coincide with International Students Day and we could not have done this without you, our members, putting forward such a fantastic range of committed, articulate and inspirational students. Thanks to everyone who nominated a student to take part – you have impeccable taste!
The team at UKCISA have been keen to do something with international students for a while now, and International Students' Day on 17 November seemed like the perfect opportunity to try a new type of event, delivered for, and by, international students. We had 45 institutions represented from across the UK – FE colleges, higher education institutions, and specialist institutions such as the Institute of Cancer Research.
I certainly didn’t need to worry about the individual students being reticent about sharing their views in a forum of people they didn’t know. The engagement between participants was exceptional, with so many conversations about shared and individual experiences. The buzz started over coffee in the registration period, and continued through group work in breakout sessions to sharing personal stories and experiences in the panel sessions - they were so involved and determined to make the most of their day, it was a privilege to be part of it.
We followed this with a drinks reception at the British Library, where we heard from the inspirational Rex Béchu, a University of Sheffield student, who shared her own story of coming to the UK as an international student, and falling in love with rain, Yorkshire tea and life in the UK in general. A whole room, moved to tears by a story that reminds us all why we do what we do, and illustrates how international education changes lives for good. It also gave our members and our partners an opportunity to meet students who’d participated in the day, and hear more about the conversations that we’d had.
View the photos from the day and view our short video about the day.
Student Ambassador Programme
We also launched our new #WeAreInternational Student Ambassador programme. Through this programme, UKCISA will benefit from the experience of current international students in the UK, as a network of student champions. The programme will enable us to incorporate the international student voice at Board level, feeding into our strategic planning and ensuring international students are at the heart of everything we do. The programme is also intended to develop the individual ambassadors’ skills while they’re here in the UK, giving back to the students themselves. Any international student currently studying in the UK, from anywhere in the world is eligible to apply, and we expect interest to be high. Applications are open on the website, so please do share with your student community and encourage them to apply. ukcisa.org.uk/ambassador
We Are International
This wasn’t the only piece of news to announce on the day. UKCISA has taken over the reins of the next phase of the #WeAreInternational campaign from the University of Sheffield. This inspirational campaign has been a huge success since its inception in 2016 and has brought together a host of individuals and organisations committed to international education and internationalisation. It has never been more important to get the message out that the UK, its towns and cities, its universities, colleges and schools, remain open to those that want to come here to study.
I’m proud to see that the conversations are still continuing on social media, that the applications to our ambassador programme are already attracting a lot of interest, and that we are receiving a host of enquiries from other organisations about how they can work with us on #WeAreInternational. I’m also proud of my team for delivering such a high profile and impactful event, in record time.
We’ve still got a bit of thinking to do about what campaign activities we want to focus on in the new year, but for now, please do use the hashtag #WeAreInternational wherever you can. Drop it in your Twitter profile, retweet and share it in your social media feeds, include it in your or your institution’s LinkedIn posts. This all helps to raise the profile of the campaign and keep the conversation flowing, so our message can get out to prospective students. We’d also love to hear from you about any activities you might plan under the #WeAreInternational umbrella – it is an open source campaign, so it’s yours to use to promote your students and the work you do to support them.
Finally, UKCISA will be producing a policy note based on discussions at the forum, with recommendations for government and for members. We hope this will be insightful content and will support you in your roles.